lovehate: Recent Comments on Canadian Copyright Reform (Part 2)

As a follow-up to my recent post on a response, my reply to a comment made on a statement I made on the website about a week ago, I present the next response from someone else who misread my original post and my subsequent reply. All comments are presented unedited.

Her reply after reading my original post, the first commenter, and my reply back (all of which can be read by clicking the above link):

not really- I don't think contentcreator misconstrued. that's how I read it too. if we've misconstrued, by all means, clarify.

and if you think that the 'marketing' as it pertains to artists at the levels where this issue really matters - the ones who have to figure out 'how the F*&k do i try to make enough money to put music out- record a record, pay the studio & musicians and press the thing... even gas to get to the next gig- is separate from the music, then it would make sense as to why you think most musicians are no better than your neighbor or cousin- because you have spent very little time or energy considering your premise.

Insulting, and ignorant, in the classic sense of the word. the artists who are not already established (read- backed by corporate $$), do their own marketing and it's 75% of the work. Which is why your neighbor or cousin- whose talents you so dearly admire- aren't doing it. It takes a passion and dedication that defies logic.... and money, for god's sake.

yeah, sure, art has always existed- but art always had it's patrons who helped finance the artist while they created. The wealthy gave money to artists (as opposed to making money off of artists) because it was the honorable, ethical thing to do and because if they didn't they'd appear crass and cheap.

even touring in Europe you find more generosity towards the artist- for example, after finding out you are a musician, they don't immediately ask you what your day job is. North America has cheapened it. 

You're right though- art was always available to the masses- for free. but there were mechanisms in place to allow that to happen.

look at radio. free. but there are mechanisms that are respected and hold broadcasters accountable. If someone is making money off of art and that money is bypassing the artist, that's the only issue I see mattering.

it's just, who? the recordable media producers? the internet service providers? the advertisers who do their advertising because free content draws hits to the sites?

we send people to space, I'm sure there's a way to figure it out.

regardless, the rights of the creator has to be acknowledged- things are changing and writers and creators of all disciplines need to be protected.

man. how the hell do you expect us to eat? marketing is not worth that much to you... worth what?! what have you paid?

personally I think there are a lot of people making money off of 'free' content before it ever gets to the user and they are the ones who should pay... but before you start talking about 'entitlement' consider what you are saying you're entitled to... free access to art at the cost of the artist.

My reply back to her...

My original comment was misconstrued in the sense that the point was about the presumption that copyrighted/industry music was being presented as the hallmark or Canadian culture. The secondary assertion was that art will always exist (even without monetization), and that to imply "professional" artists are necessarily better (or produce better work) than the "amateur" up the street is arrogant.

From those ideas, the first commenter implied that I was somehow all for stealing copyrighted work, that I was implying he should get ripped off, and that I said it was "easy to make a living writing or singing". I never said ANY of those things. That the original commenter and yourself are bringing those suppositions to argument is at once, telling, and, I suppose, not unexpected considering the venue.

I spent years playing in various bands across Ontario for little to no money and never would imply that the effort or drive in monetizing artistic talent is anything less than exasperating. It's the reason I chose to not do it for a living. But don't, for a second, try and make a logic leap that by not choosing to monetize my music anymore, I'm somehow less passionate or talented than anyone else. Not having a passion for business does not preclude abandoning passion for the art.

Choosing to spend money on recording, promoting, and touring is an investment you're making in a life YOU choose to follow. You're banking on your ability to sell your talent like a commodity and are taking the same risks as someone who pours money into research for an invention or buys a stock. You're letting the consumer market decide your monetary reward. And while I hope that you make millions, if no one wants to listen, your bottom line will be less impacted by copyright thieves than your ability to market yourself. Your music may be brilliant. And while you have a right to sell and buy your product as demand dictates, and protect your copyright to boot, you have NO right to expect to make a living from it and NO recourse if you're just simply decades ahead of your time or increasingly derivative and mundane.

With regard to your historical diatribe about patronage and "free art for the masses." Let me first preface by repeating (again) "I NEVER SAID I WANTED TO PIRATE COPYRIGHTED MUSIC OR TAKE MONEY FROM YOU!" Secondly, I'm thinking that the key divide between my original post and your interpretation is with regard to contending definitions of art. Art doesn't have to be "free to the masses" for it be art. Further, art can be locked up in a room for a hundred years and never see the light of day while still being art. The intrinsic value of art, for me, does not rely on the number of consumers ingesting it. While I understand that the entire mechanism around "The Arts" as a monetization industry does revolve around this concept, and that to monetize art does depend on consumers, I have no problem with Nickelback and Avril Lavigne making tens of millions of dollars around the world and in Canada. Can't stand the music, but I don't begrudge them making money nor do I plan on ever asking for it to be free.

Next, in considering a couple of your assertions...

Radio is NOT free or it would not exist as mass media. That I give up 10-20 minutes per hour listening to ads is perhaps the most expensive use of my time and the main reason I don't listen to most commercial radio. By the way, someone IS making money off of art that is bypassing the artist: The Record Companies - usually from 90-99% of it!

Where do I get free access to art? Not television, radio, or websites. Contending with ad-based promotion is not free for me. That a hundred thousand musicians choose to put their music up on MySpace and allow Rupert Murdoch to reap the benefits is not my fault or choice. If you can get money from him, be my guest, or take your music down from his site. If a musician puts music on MySpace it's for one of two reasons: 1) to share it without expectation, or 2) to use the service as a promotional tool - that's called a commercial and there's an expectation that goes along with it.

I'm curious to know what you consider to be the "rights of the creator" and what "protections" you expect (considering that's what these deliberations are truly about anyway). This discussion would be entirely ancillary to the current one however, as I never questioned creator's rights in my original post.

I have spent plenty of time considering the premises of my original post. Unfortunately you have either categorically disagreed (which is your right) or simply not taken the time to understand it. I'll simplify:

1) Art exists without money. 

2) Everyone has artistic abilities to varying degrees. 

3) To claim that monetized art, alone, is the core of our culture is at once shocking and repugnant. Marketing should not dictate culture.

Those were the ONLY key ideas from the original post. If you reread it without the hyperbole of the first commenter, you might be able to parse said meanings yourself.

Lastly, while I certainly engaged in a couple of exaggerated metaphors in my original post, I never had the gall to call anyone "ignorant" simply because they disagreed with me. If you note a sense of distaste in the above reply, it is returned in kind. You don't know me anywhere near well enough to call me ignorant, and you surely haven't formed a cogent argument behind your symbolized invectives and personal hard luck appeals to sway me from my aforementioned beliefs.

lovehate: Recent Comments on Canadian Copyright Reform

[I started with this at]

I hope the implication behind many of these comments and responses is not that the only way to have "the arts" in one's life are for them to be monetized. There will ALWAYS be, exponentially, way more free art than commercially-crafted artistic products. Any assertion that even echoes a tone of quantitative value for "the arts" over art makes my skin crawl.

Art will always exist whether monetized or not. Music existed well before ceramic cylinders and oral tradition existed well before summer blockbusters. In both cases performers traveled and made money playing songs and relaying stories passed through generations.

I heard much of this arrogance at the Toronto Town Hall where there was an echoing sentiment that relaxing copyright would destroy "the arts". You know what, "the arts" can take a flying leap off the CN Tower and hope its sense of entitlement will save it - ART will endure.

And before you claim this is somehow too tertiary to the copyright conversation going on here, consider that "the arts" is about persistent PR myth that people who get paid to write or perform are doing something no one else can do. Art does not demand copyright. "The Arts" does.

Are some professional writers better than your neighbour at writing? Maybe.

Are some professional singers better than your cousin at singing? Maybe.

But for most of my life, there's only been one thing that's divided "the arts" from art - marketing.

And marketing is just not worth THAT much to me.


[and after another user replied with...]

Are the staff at your local coffee shop better at making coffee than your neighbour? Maybe.

Could your cousin make you a cup of coffee for free? Maybe.

Would you walk into a coffee shop and leave without paying for your coffee? Not without being arrested.

The difference between coffee made at home and coffee made in a restaurant is debatable, but paying for it is not. Yes, you pay for the marketing there too, but it doesn't change the fact that we pay for the goods, services and intellectual copyrights created by others in this wonderful country called Canada.

Call it Art or The Arts, but I like to be paid for my work. And the idea of wandering around like a busker, hoping someone like you might toss a quarter into my open guitar case is repugnant to me.

If you think it is so easy to make a living writing or singing, why don't you quit your day job and see how long you can pay the bills based on the money you receive after your songs have been digitally transferred for free?


[So I replied back with...]

Before I start, you've misconstrued and misrepresented my original point to where it's unrecognizable in your reply.

I never once said that content creators (no pun intended) shouldn't get paid, or that it was right to take from them, so while I appreciate you speaking passionately about your concern, please do not ascribe such accusations to my post.

My point was not whether I would steal a cup of coffee or not, but rather the frustration at hearing that because I have to pay for it, it's categorically better than what I could make at home.

I could make a living by playing piano and singing. It wouldn't be as good a living as I make now, and it would be a heck of a lot harder, but I could do it. But simply because I choose not to, does not make my playing or talent inferior to those who do.

My entire original premise came from the perceived notion, through the Toronto Town Hall and reading some of the comments here, that monetized artistic talent in Canada was somehow the last bastion of Canadian culture. Also, I object to the idea that a looser copyright system threatens culture. 

As much as I hope you become a billionaire at whatever you do and whatever I do, I have no doubt just by sheer probability that many others out there can do what we do both do far better than us. And that's not because I think we're bad, but that I have faith in the hidden talents of a populace like ours.

Culture is not a definable product of monetized efforts. It is an amorphous variable that includes some of those efforts, but also reaches through the skew perpetrated by them and coalesces the rest.

lovehate: Five Myths of Canadian Copyright Dissolution

Having the first few minutes at home, in front of my desktop, since attending the Copyright Town Hall Inc. Lobbying Mixer this past Thursday at the palatial Royal York Hotel in Toronto's Financial District, I have decided to construct a blog post/submission to the copyright website all in one. And far be it from me to do anything normally, I thought I would use my words to poke some holes in the common myths that revolve around relaxed copyright legislation.

Myth One: Copyright is responsible for Canadian Culture

I can't believe that I actually heard one of the record execs in Toronto essentially say that strong copyright laws lead to better corporate abilities to promote Canadian culture around the world. Are we to believe that major label music is to be the hallmark of Canadian culture? Do I really want Nickelback and Avril Lavigne to be what people in Suriname, Guyana, or Guatemala think of my country's culture? Culture existed far before companies figured out how to monetize physical media, and it will always exist, even far after the death of an antiquated copyright system.

Myth Two: Copyright is responsible for creativity

Beyond the suits echoing the following sentiment, I can't believe that so many so-called "artists" tried to assert that strong copyright laws and the ability to monetize content was the reason for their creative output. To say that you cannot afford to create anymore if you can't make a living from it means one of two things: 
  1. You're not an artist, but a craftsperson doing nothing more creative than an assembly line worker cranking out product for money, thus, when the money dries up, so does your "ability".
  2. You actually believe that someone OWES you a living for doing something you proclaim to LOVE doing. I have written music, plays, essays, articles, poetry for all of my adult life because I enjoy creating. Let me repeat that - I ENJOY CREATING! I wish I could make as much money writing and playing music as I do in my day job, but I've accepted reality and not stopped creating. And before you think you're better than me at writing or music just because your output is marketable to the mainstream, and a suit wants to rake 98% of your money, get your head out of your ass.
Myth Three: Copyright protects content creators from getting ripped off

Copyright ensures that music creators will get ripped off by record labels. Most artists go deep in the hole when recording and need to sell tens if not hundreds of thousands of copies of a CD to get out of the red with labels. Labels know how to monetize the physical media platforms (like CDs) very well. They have not figured out how to monetize digital distribution systems. The "old school" way demands greasing palms of everyone and anyone connected with the industry to get radio play. A Creative Commons approach to copyright for musicians ensures all reasonable protections and allows for everyone online to find new ways to use and promote music - what a concept, public promotion instead of A&R departments!

But now anyone can record in their basement, and anyone can distribute online. Anyone has the viral video lottery shot that's probably even higher than catching big with a label. The record labels are surely being propped up by multi-conglomerate properties that form the axes of big media evil that swallow up all that threatens their dominance. There is no reason to think that band who can sell 2000 copies of a CD at $5 online would be any worse off financially than selling 20000 copies for a major label. The abusive Chris Brown sold tens of thousands of copies of one song because of its misappropriation in a YouTube wedding video. Record labels sell dreams of celebrity that are slimmer than becoming a professional athlete.

Myth Four: Harsh copyright punishments will deter P2P theft

Harsh copyright punishments will infuriate half the population who uses P2P for downloading copyrighted and legally-shared files.

To use an analogy, the Queen Elizabeth Way highway between Hamilton and Toronto has a posted speed limit of 100kph. When traffic is not bottlenecked, cars in the fast lane average 120kph without repercussion because EVERYONE in that lane does it. Doesn't necessarily make it right, but if the speed limit went up to 120kph, I bet the real speed would jump to 140kph. Drivers feel that they can drive safely above 100kph and, when weighing the value of the speed to their destination above the relative inability of authorities to choose to enforce the law, they choose to continue breaking it. Downloaders access copyrighted files for free because they don't feel they get value for the $15-20 they are forced to spend on a CD when they've only heard one song on the radio, television, YouTube, or

Myth Five: ISP throttling of bandwidth is a logical way to deter pirating

Let me borrow another analogy. In Miami, 90% of all open sea drug smuggling occurs via speedboat, although all speedboats used for smuggling only account for a minuscule fraction of all the speedboats in Miami. The US Coast Guard decides to ban speedboats from all waters in Florida and only authorizes former speedboat users to travel in canoes. 

Sounds ridiculous? 

This is exactly the logic that ISPs are using when throttling an internet users traffic just because they use a Bit Torrent client. There is no sense in the idea that because pirates use Bit Torrent clients, that everyone who uses a Bit Torrent client must be a pirate. To allow ISPs to throttle on the basis on a type of software is unfair to consumers and, most often, not ever told to the customer.

And this analogy is especially ridiculous if you believe the ISPs are throttling to protect copyright. Their prime motivation is to save bandwidth for themselves so they can nickel and dime customers that are bound their CRTC-enforced monopolies.

That's my two cents on copyright reform, which is probably more than a musical artist signed to a major label makes when I buy a copy of their song on iTunes.